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Help me decide- EMP, Gramercy, or Union Sq Cafe??

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Going to one of these with my buddy and want to know what everyone suggests. They all have awesome menus and I am totally confused! Please tell me what each of you recommend and especially which dishes.

I am bummed the mushroom lasagna is not on the menu anymore at Gramercy Tavern- really wanted to try that. Maybe if I ask they can whip it up for me. Anyway as far as the menu goes for apps veal cappelletti looks good. For mains the sirloin and braised flat iron, duck, and rack of lamb sound good. What do you recommend from these? Also, The tasting menu also looks interesting, however I would like to substitute- Do you think they would allow that- I know some restaurants do. For dessert gotta try to cocoa nib ice cream with the bread budding.

I am really dying to try to duck at EMP and have heard great things from many on the board. Union Sq. has a really appealing, awesome menu as well. So where should we go?

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  1. Unions Sq is not worth a visit. That is for sure.
    As for the other two, well, enough people will chime in. I think go by menu and if cost is a factor.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dietndesire

      Cost is no factor!

    2. I really enjoyed EMP in general, but I was disappointed in the whole duck. To be fair, I really enjoy a beautiful, medium rare duck breast, and that's just impossible with a whole duck preparation.

      I absolutely loved the restaurant and the rest of our meal, though.

      6 Replies
      1. re: cyberroo

        They couldn't cook the duck rare? Also do they give you the duck leg?

        1. re: steakrules85

          Didn't we already go through this, steakrules? No duck leg at EMP. Only the breast and the confit "cake." As far as the doneness of the breast is concerned, they actually manage not to cook it well-done but more like medium, so there is still a pinkishness. And it is anything but dried out. But the real star of Chef Humm's duck is the super-crispy skin. I don't lightly use the term "awesome," but it's the only word that fits.

          Caution: If you go to Gramercy Tavern, do not -- I repeat -- do not order the duck! When we had dinner in the dining room there a few weeks ago, I ordered it. I'm a duck addict, and this had to be one of the least appealing preparations I've ever encountered.

          I was not crazy about my foie gras custard appetizer either. The most I can say about it was that it was "interesting."

          Mr. R. had pasta and the rack of lamb and was reasonably satisfied.

          Desserts were excellent.

          Overall, both of us agreed that we didn't find the food at Gramercy Tavern to be "exciting." Certainly not equal to the exquisite and complex cuisine that is being served at EMP.

          1. re: steakrules85

            Steakrules,

            I guess I have to echo RGR and asked: Didn't we already tell you NO duck leg. Even if you ask 20 more people there wouldn't be a different answer and told you duck leg being served.
            Duck breast doesn't have to be medium rare to be succulent. Think Chinese roast duck. The duck at EMP, like RGR said, is medium but very tender. If it is delicious, who cares if it is rare / medium rare or well done?

            I completely agree with RGR's assessment on Gramercy Tavern. It is comforting and satisfying, but I won't consider it a venue for culinary revelation. It is more of a neighbourhood place than a special occasion restaurant IMO. Please do a search and there are plenty of discussions compare EMP vs Gramercy Tavern

            I think I said that before, but personally I think EMP's food is superior to GT.
            As for USC, my comment on it is pretty much the same as Gotham. So you know how I feel about it.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Thanks guys, I am gunna try to get them to give me those legs! I am paying for it! Either way i am pretty excited about going. I am sure the duck will be great even though it won't be rare that I love. Also, what other entrees do you recommend? I will have two others with me. We will all wind up sharing- I would say the suckling pig and the beef tenderlion short glazed short rib sound awesome. The poached lobster as well. Also what about dessert? I know i am going with the souffle as its one of my fave desserts. The chocolate one sounds good as does the vacherin.

              1. re: steakrules85

                Hey, steakrules,

                To be honest, I've never thought about requesting the legs because I've always been very satisfied with the way the duck is usually served. However, since everyone on the staff at EMP does try to do what they can to please their patrons, if you ask, I think there's a good chance they will serve you the legs.

                As far as other main courses are concerned, the suckling pig is another of Chef Humm's signature dishes. It's been on the menu since forever -- and with good reason, i.e., it is seriously delicious.

                The beef tenderloin and glazed short ribs, which is a relatively new dish, having been put on the winter menu a few months ago, is sensational!

                I've had poached lobster as part of the tasting menu. Wonderful! It's a different preparation than the one served on the 3-course menu, but I'm sure the latter will be just as excellent.

                I adore the quark souffle, and I also highly recommend the pastilla. Yum! and Yum! If you like chocolate, the Caraibe chocolate gateaux is not too shabby. I haven't had the "Malted Milkshake" or the Milk Chocolate Palette since both are new. The vacherin is very nice, but it's probably my least favorite of the desserts.

                I hope you and your dining companions have a great meal at EMP. I look forward to reading your report.

                Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

                1. re: RGR

                  Thanks! awesome details!

        2. As you probably already know all 3 of the restaurants are Danny Meyer places so service is always fantastic. The personality of the 3 is what separates them. Before I go further I have to say that I couldn't disagree more with the comment about USC not being worth a visit, we've been there twice very recently and both times were great, they had a rough patch a while ago but that's old news. But, opinions are personal so I just wanted to include mine. Anyway, back to the restaurants, EMP - high end, inventive food, impeccable, professional, accomodating service, incredible cocktails, all in a very grand room. Of the 3 this would be the prestige place.

          GT Dining Room - wonderful, albeit more approachable, food, in an almost rustic/refined space. GT DR would be relaxed sophistication. GT - Tavern Room, very casual but service and food retain high levels. Not sure when you checked but the mushroom lasagna was still on the menu last weekend.

          USC - as mentioned before, a great place but the most casual of the 3.

          GT and EMP are both VERY gracious with substitutions especially if you call ahead and inform them.

          Any one of these places will provide you a great time it's just a matter of what kind of time you want.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Spiritchaser

            AWESOME info! Thanks... im looking at the gramercy menu on the site and theres no lasagna =( I think my friend made the rez for EMP... can't wait to try the duck. I will let everyone know what the deal is with a review of the meal....

            1. re: steakrules85

              Check the Tavern Menu for the lasagna. You can go for lunch on a weekend and do an app and the lasagna in the tavern and not break the bank.

              If you are a drinker and like martinis make sure you ask for tableside service for their signature martini at EMP.

              1. re: Spiritchaser

                Hmmm maybe they will give it to me in the main dining room if its on the tavern menu.

                1. re: steakrules85

                  Yes, they will. One time our waiter made a point of telling us that after he learned my GF is a vegetarian. He said if there was any item on the Tavern menu (there were some veg friendly dishes on the T menu at the time) they would gladly serve it in the Dining Room.

                  1. re: steakrules85

                    The mushroom lasagna is always a Tavern menu item and not on the dining room menu. However, you can request to have it as a substitute for one of your entrees at the dining room.

            2. I had dinner at EMP about two weeks ago. Everything was terrific. Get the chocolate malt dessert!

              1 Reply
              1. re: trixareforkids

                Thanks for the rec!

              2. I guess it depends on what kind of atmosphere you want. EMP is a little more formal and cold, whereas GT just feels a lot warmer and cozier. I personally liked the food at GT better. Some of the dishes at EMP were really excellent, but some of them were just so-so. I don't really understand the HUGE hype about EMP. But maybe I need to give it a second chance. My recommendation would be to go to GT. They will most certainly be able to serve you the lasagna in the dining room if it's on the tavern menu. They are really gracious about substitutions. If you go, I love the smoked trout appetizer, the grilled octopus (though I think this is also on the tavern menu), and the german chocolate cake is just mindblowingly awesome. I think that is also on the tavern menu though. I had the pumpkin upside down cake and the chocolate bread pudding from the dining room menu and both were good, the pumpkin being a bit better in my opinion. I thought that the chocolate bread pudding was a little too "wet" in a bad way. I also had the sea bass with spaghetti squash and it was really really good. If you go to the tavern, I have to recommend the stuffed meatball and the roasted chicken. Both are EXCELLENT. The duck confit is also REALLY good.

                Let us know what you end up doing!